Joanna Trollope - the pursuit of happiness
LIFE is good for Joanna Trollope. As she chats to WEEKEND from her London home, it's clear that this is a woman who is very happy with her lot.
And why not? 21 years since her novel The Rector's Wife catapulted her to fame, she's now basking in the success of yet another book, The Soldier's Wife, which has once again shot to the top of the best-seller list – a position of which Joanna is very familiar.
But while the critical acclaim, the fame and all the trimmings which come with it are obviously very welcome, you get the feeling if it all ended tomorrow, Joanna wouldn't mind.
Family is what matters most to her and, ultimately, everything else fades into insignificance.
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"I have nine grandchildren and an elderly mother so there are a lot of generations needing attention, but family life brings such unbelievable satisfaction," she said.
"I know there are a lot of women in a similar position who are under unbearable strain and feel pulled from all sides, but at the same time I think most women need to be needed.
"I have a very loyal readership which means everything to me and I value that hugely, and of course it's nice not to have an overdraft, but fame doesn't define me.
"I was in my late 40s when The Rector's Wife became a best-seller so I already knew who I was and what was important to me.
"It was the most wonderful addition and I really value it, but success didn't change me. I don't think I'm a different person.
"I once read an interview with Adele where she described how she'd got off the plane in New York on the way to collect all those Grammy awards and realised she was suddenly world famous, at the age of 23.
"I look at all these people who become famous at a young age and feel sorry for them," said Joanna.
"They think they want instant fame and then they get it and I'm sure it's great for a few years, then they realise it's not what they want at all.
"You need to ask someone like Robbie Williams if it's really all it's cracked up to be."
Even within the writing world, Joanna wonders if there's such a thing as too much success.
"JK Rowling has done wonderful things and we owe her an enormous debt, as she opened the gates for the mega-sellers we see today and also got a generation of children, particularly boys, reading in a way nobody had before," said Joanna.
"I have nothing but admiration for her, but I wonder if there comes a point where money begins to imprison you in the way that the lack of it had before.
"Of course I know that she's very sensible with it and gives an awful lot to charity but I imagine when you have heaps of money, it can be as bad as when you had none at all."
Charity work is something else which is close to Joanna's own heart and she devotes much of her time to good causes.
"I can't respond to every appeal so I choose charities for personal reasons," she said.
"I work with Dementia UK because my dad suffered from it, The Meningitis Trust because my daughter contracted it when she was seven and Breast Cancer Care because I lost a dear friend to the disease."
But causes which help the community in Gloucestershire are also important to Joanna, who was born in Minchinhampton.
She will be appearing at the Parabola Arts Centre on Sunday, September 30, talking about her life as an author with outgoing managing director of Cheltenham Racecourse Edward Gillespie, in an event organised by the Friends of Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum to raise money for the renovation of the venue.
Joanna said: "A close friend who is involved with the Friends asked me to do it, so I'm doing it for her, for the gallery, which I think is fantastic, and for the community.
"While I don't think of Gloucestershire as home any more, because home for me is more about family than a particular place, I'll always have an affection for it.
"I was born here, spent time living here when my children were growing up and I still have a lot of friends here so I visit a lot, and I always feel a sense of belonging.
"I have a strong sense of knowing where I come from and I'm very grateful for having that sense of identity.
"You don't always have to live in a place to feel that."
She added: "At the moment I love living in London and it feels right for me to be here, but who knows if I'll feel that way forever.
"Gloucestershire will always be a special place."
* For tickets to see Joanna in conversation at Parabola Arts Centre log on to Parabola Arts Centre